Contacting an ex after a long time (we’re not talking months here) can still prompt a case of white-knuckled trepidation. Even if the wounds have closed, and resentment has been cemented over by caring, never second-guess the emotions that can bubble-up to the surface.
One of the greatest myths regarding moving on is that we do so completely. That we somehow become immunized. Instead, the majority of us simply learn how to compartmentalize the pain and deal with it. Time can numb the pain, but it won’t erase the memory. Because of this, it is important to contact the right way.
Don’t cook-up a reason unless you have one
Mixed signals are the bane of communication between exs. There’s nothing worse than wondering whether “out of the blue” contact means your ex is having second thoughts, only to have our deeply buried hopes smashed later down the line. For instance, if you open up asking for a small favor in order to gauge their feelings towards you, they may react defensively because they think they are being used.
Be transparent, be positive but be respectful of their personal boundaries. They might not be the person you remember. I find that stating early on in the conversation the reason behind contact tends to elicit a better response. It also allows your ex to decide serenely how they wish to handle contact from here on out. If my ex wanted to catch up I’d much be hit with “dropping by for a chat…“, than “there’s a terrible thunderstorm today, it reminds me of the time we…“. The latter would undoubtedly lead me to over-analyse their intentions, but I’d take the former at face-value.
Ultimately, you know far better than I who you are dealing with. But I would nevertheless urge you never to assume anything based on the past. There’s no telling how they have evolved, and breakups are one of the strongest catalysts for growth and change. Subtly spell out your intentions.
Don’t walk up and knock
Most of us have a heavily romanticized dream-scenario involving that ex who suddenly appears out of nowhere with roses and a glowing smile. However, we can’t read minds, and we can’t second-guess where life has taken them. They may be in love with someone else and find contact with you threatening. They may also be resentful, shy, scared or confused.
If you’re going to break the ice, do so behind a wall of text. It makes it initially far less daunting for objectivity to override impulsive body-language and confusion. It also shows that you respect their space, and aren’t taking their attention for granted. Should communication kick-off, the means will naturally escalate to more personal media.
Do focus on the present and future
While laughing a little nervously about the past is inevitable, renewing contact should be about creating a new relationship (even if it is strictly platonic). The past, as they say, is the past.
Time will have coloured your memories and fundamentally changed who you both are. Focusing on what was will usually only end with the realization that you are miles apart, installing an awkward feeling of distance.
Shift contact into the present. If you want to involve them in your life do so by finding common ground in the future or present. Should reconciliation occur (and only if that is your intention), it will only ever be successful if you are able to fall in love again — from scratch.
Do it with a smile
Above and beyond all our expectations it pays to put ourselves first. Relativizing the experience with humour is not only a fantastic way to break the ice, it is also a fantastic way to protect ourselves.
Contacting an ex after a long time should never feel like something you need to do (if it does, then wait for a more forgiving moment), it should be something you want to do. When it comes to expecting the best and preparing for the worst, humour is our weapon of choice.
- Humour takes the edge off resentment.
- Humour makes it easy to express difficult emotions in an easily digestible way.
- Humour is attractive and magnetic.
- Humour makes us less self-conscious.
- And on…
The list of positive attributes are literally endless. If you can think of a better way of setting the tone, protecting yourself and propelling you both into the future feel free to let me know!
Images courtesy of Stuart Miles and pakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net